THE EIGHTH ANNUAL
BEST OF KAWEAH
Best of Kaweah Country 2007 will begin in May with the release of the
annual readers' poll (visitors and residents are welcome to participate)..
The results will be published in August.
THANK YOU, THREE
Because of your participation, the eighth annual BEST of Kaweah Country
readers’ poll consists of the most interesting and diverse responses
One reason for this, we figure, is because of the way the poll was distributed
this year. Instead of printing it on an entire page of the newspaper,
as has been the routine in the past, this year, the poll was on a separate
sheet of legal-sized paper and inserted into only the newspapers that
are mailed and distributed locally.
The end result meant less polls submitted — about 350 received;
half of that of last year — but more of them were filled out completely,
and the answers and comments better reflect what really is BEST about
Three Rivers and the surrounding region that we have collectively dubbed
Sure, we know some of the answers are no-brainers because there may be
just one from which to choose, but these and other independently-owned
businesses deserve an annual tip of the hat for working so hard to keep
such services close to home and convenient.
This year, since such a wide range of BEST answers were received, not
only will the winner be announced in each category (watch for the bold
type), but the runners-up with the most votes will be listed as well (in
no particular order).
The BEST place to take the entire clan is River View Restaurant.
With their down-home selection from burgers to pizza, it’s a favorite
for all ages. Patio dining is available, which ensures that a few crumbs
on the floor don’t matter and the “river view” is always
Close behind are the newly reopened We Three Bakery, Gateway
Restaurant, Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant, Pizza Factory, Cider Mill,
New China (Woodlake), and Wuksachi Lodge (Sequoia National Park).
The perennial winner of this category takes first place once
again. Gateway Restaurant is the BEST place to get cozy with the one you
love. Wuksachi, River View, and Serrano’s also garnered votes.
Sitting outside where the Kaweah’s East Fork meets
the Middle Fork is the readers’ choice of where to BEST stick a
fork in it. Yep, the Gateway walks away with this category again this
Folks also enjoy dining outside at River View, Serrano’s,
We Three, and Sierra Subs & Salads.
Everybody has an opinion on this one and, this year, it’s
a tie between Sierra Subs & Salads and Super Taco (Woodlake).
Other deals on meals are at River View, Anne Lang’s
Emporium, Chevron mini-mart, Totem deli, We Three, Serrano’s, Three
Rivers Market, and Kaweah Marina.
PLACE TO GO WHEN
SOMEONE ELSE PAYS
There is a definite winner in this category, but worthy of
mention is what we have deemed the BEST, most creative answer of the entire
poll. The “BEST place to go when someone else pays” is, duh,
the gas station. Bravo!
The real winner is the Gateway, followed by Wuksachi Lodge,
Orange Blossom Junction (Yokohl Valley), and Bearpaw High Sierra Camp
(Sequoia National Park).
In last year’s poll, several voters commented on how
they missed We Three. Well, they’re back and We Three Bakery won
this category by a mile.
Other enjoyable places to start the day are Gateway, Cider
Mill, Serrano’s, and Wuksachi.
The BEST place
for herbivores to graze is a toss up between Sierra Subs & Salads
and We Three.
Serrano’s, Anne Lang’s, and Gateway also received
It was a landslide that put Serrano’s into first place
for their south-of-the-border fare.
Other places for hot ‘n’ spicy are Super Taco,
Cider Mill, and We Three.
Wow… in a category where only two eateries even received
votes, the end result is a tie. That means the River View garnered the
same amount of votes as Pizza Factory, which is usually the hands-down
winner of this category.
It’s another tie in this category. Anne Lang’s,
which has won this category every year, and Sierra Subs & Salads are
in the top spot.
River View, Gateway, and We Three also received mention for what’s
between their bread.
Sierra Subs & Salads is on their own as number one in
this category. They are followed by We Three, Gateway, Anne Lang’s,
River View, Wuksachi, Serrano’s, and Pizza Factory.
It’s all in the name— Reimer’s Candies,
Gifts and Ice Cream won this category far and away.
Worthy of mention are the votes received for a local entrepreneur,
Pam Marlow, who is becoming locally renowned for her delectable cheesecakes.
Other sweet treats can be savored at We Three, River View,
Gateway, Cider Mill, and Anne Lang’s.
Only two local establishments received votes. Way out in
first place is We Three Bakery, which again brings back memories of last
year’s poll, where there was quite a bit of whimpering because this
restaurant was in the midst of a lengthy renovation.
Village Market received mention for their fresh baked goods.
New China (Woodlake) is deserving of winning this category
year after year even if they are the only Chinese restaurant within a
Kow Loon’s (Visalia) received a few votes. They are
a bit out of the “Kaweah Country” sphere of influence, but
we’ll give them credit for their eastside location.
Gateway wrangled its way to the top of this category this
year as the BEST place to find this all-American staple.
River View, We Three, Sierra Subs, Wuksachi, Cider Mill,
and Anne Lang’s also serve up scrumptious beef on a bun.
It’s Gateway again in this category. And they must
be pretty used to winning it by now.
The cuts at the River View, Wuksachi, Orange Blossom, and
Serrano’s also are worthy of a try.
And for all the Three Rivers Lions Club members who have
taken their turn at the barbecue, the hard work is appreciated. This is
the first year that the Lions Club received votes for BEST Steak.
Super Taco in Woodlake grabbed the top spot. It’s fast,
easy, and a family of four can take it to go for under 10 bucks.
Also, voters recommend the to-go convenience at Sierra Subs,
Pizza Factory, Anne Lang’s, and Serrano’s.
It wouldn’t be summer in Three Rivers if the Village
Market didn’t fire up the grill. And that’s what the majority
of voters said, too.
Other favorite places to have a meal that’s been raked
over the coals are River View, Gateway, and any Lions Club event.
Those with a sweet tooth won this one for Reimer’s.
The handmade chocolates and ice cream are world-famous and local favorites,
Also receiving accolades for not making it like everyone
else are We Three, Cider Mill (in particular, their chile verde was mentioned),
and Anne Lang’s.
The Cabin, of course. Remember, “friends don’t
let friends drink <insert name of corporate coffee chain here>.”
Also worthy places where readers like to sip a mug from the
bean machine are We Three, 3 Rivers Cyber Café, and Sequoia Gifts
Some of the poll categories require some thought. Others
are a natural selection, literally, including this one.
Reimer’s is the favorite stop for a cool scoop, where
everything is homemade from the Three Rivers Blackberry ice cream to the
waffle cone on which it sits.
Folks also cool off at Pizza Factory and Anne Lang’s.
And winning first place in a Visalia ice cream contest and receiving a
vote in the BEST of Kaweah Country poll is Greg Lockhart’s homemade
This is a new category and it makes us wonder… what
took us so long? Eleven businesses and individuals received votes and
that can mean only one thing: it’s time to have a party.
Tied for first are Laura Harris (Sierra Subs & Salads),
Serrano’s, and Gateway.
Others who provide winning meals on wheels are River View,
White Horse, Felix Gonzalez, Dan and Sharon Bullene, Shawn and Donna McConnaughey,
Maria Avila Reimer, Anne Lang’s, and We Three.
Okay, now it’s getting fun. This is where the local
votes have really made this readers’ poll take a turn to the interesting.
In first place, the BEST-kept secret in Kaweah Country is
the St. Anthony Retreat.
And here’s the rest of the BEST: Totem’s deli,
Whitewater Gallery, The Doll Nest, The Thingerie, waterfalls in park,
Cort Gallery, Wild Cave Tours, Colony Mill Road, Slicky, Sequoia Gifts
& Souvenirs, John Zapalac’s campouts, Nataliya Dixon’s
bread, Crystal Cave, Buckeye Tree Lodge’s granola, Kaweah General
Store (“Lots of odd things”), River View’s Monday Night
Jam, and “when The Indian restaurant will open.”
It’s a well-known fact that we’ve got a lot of
friendly folks in Three Rivers. And they are representing us well.
Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs, celebrating their one-year
anniversary in business this weekend, won this category with Reimer’s
and Gateway in a tie for a close second.
Here are all the others who received accolades for their
friendliness: Chump’s Videos & DVDs, Three Rivers Drug, Sierra
Garden Center, Buckeye Tree Lodge, Chevron Station, Anne Lang’s,
River View, “George sez” Totem, Randy Pares at the Three Rivers
Community Services District, and 3 Rivers Cyber Café.
Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs also made off with this category
for their tasteful, mountain-inspired décor and attractive displays.
Other Three Rivers places that are beautiful on the inside
are Chump’s, The Cabin, Reimer’s, Whitewater Gallery, Three
Rivers Garden Arts, We Three, Sequoia Village Inn, Serrano’s, and,
newcomer this year, Three Rivers Mercantile.
And it’s not all about what’s on the inside that
counts. Garnering the most votes for what’s on the outside was a
tie between the Sierra Subs/Three Rivers Garden Arts/Sequoia Gifts &
Souvenirs triplex and Reimer’s Candies, Gifts and Ice Cream complex.
Also keeping Three Rivers a picturesque place are Nadi’s
Gallery, Gateway, Chump’s, The Cabin, Barby’s, Anne Lang’s
Emporium, Three Rivers Realty, Village Market complex, Affairs Real Estate,
and the Mountain View Realty/Rosemary’s Remembrances building.
PLACE TO GET MARRIED
The favorite spot is the White Horse Inn’s River Terrace,
which may explain the nonstop parade of wedding parties there year-round.
Runners-up include Mineral King, Gateway, St. Clair’s
Catholic Church, St. Anthony Retreat, and Beetle Rock.
PLACE TO BUY SOUVENIRS
The best place to send visitors to pick the perfect memento
of their Kaweah Country trip is Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs.
Coming in on the heels of the winner is Three Rivers Drug.
Other favorites of readers are the Foothills Visitor Center, Totem, Heart’s
Desire, Whitewater, and Kaweah General Store.
PLACE TO BUY GROCERIES
Stock up at Village Market, voters say. One pollster wrote,
“The Village Market started buying organic food. Encourage them
Other votes were received for Three Rivers Market, Totem,
and First Choice Foods. Out of the area, but worthy of mention are the
votes received for Trader Joe’s and Costco.
PLACE TO BUY
Every year, this category receives complaints that there
is no Trader Joe’s in Tulare County. But this is the first year
that Trader Joe’s has actually won the category.
A conversation in July with a “captain” at Trader
Joe’s in Fresno revealed that it is “not in the two-year plan”
to bring the popular grocery to the area.
Other votes were received for Anne Lang’s, Village
Market, Three Rivers Market, Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs, Visalia Farmers’
Market, and Whole Foods Market (Fresno).
PLACE TO BUY
Village Market wins this category.
Other places to buy perishable, non-processed foods are the
Mountain View Fruit Stand, Flora Bella Farm, Three Rivers Market, Visalia
Farmers’ Market, and Trader Joe’s.
PLACE TO BUY
The Kaweah General Store is the local place to buy the gear
to catch the big one.
Rack ‘Em Out, Sierra Sporting Goods (Yokohl Valley),
and Totem also are places to visit when it’s tackle time.
Every year, The Thingerie runs away with this category. The
thrift store is filled with an ever-changing inventory of used clothing,
housewares, and so much more.
Other great deals can be found at the Sierra Garden Center,
Village Market, and Anne Lang’s.
One savvy voter recommended buying the annual National Parks
Pass. This is, indeed, a BEST bargain buy.
To enter Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks in a vehicle,
it costs $20 for seven days. The park pass costs $50 and allows access
to every national park.
You do the math.
PLACE TO BUY
Once again this year, art patrons can support local artists
by shopping at Whitewater Gallery.
Other places to get the BEST local art are at Nadi Spencer’s
Gallery, Cabinart, and the Redbud Festival.
PLACE TO BUY
We’re talking extreme adventure outfitting here, but
suffice to say, there are no major gearheads in the vicinity.
The Kaweah General Store is where to go to stock up for the
great outdoors. Newcomer Three Rivers Mercantile received honorable mention
in anticipation of their outside inventory.
PLACE TO BUY JEWELRY
She doesn’t have a storefront, but the winner in this
category is Tina St. John Designs.
In fact, one voter wrote that the BEST place to buy jewelry
is “wherever Tina St. John is.” Watch for her at the Kaweah
Artisan Boutiques held throughout the year.
Other places to shop for baubles and beads are Sequoia Gifts
& Souvenirs, Whitewater, Heart’s Desire, and the annual Redbud
PLACE TO BUY GIFTS
What’s in a name? Obviously a lot because Sequoia Gifts
& Souvenirs won both of their categories — gifts and souvenirs,
along with a few others.
Other places to shop for special occasions are Whitewater,
Heart’s Desire, Reimer’s, St. Anthony Retreat bookstore, Foothills
Visitor Center, Three Rivers Historical Museum, Barby’s, Totem,
and Three Rivers Drug.
PLACE TO BUY ANTIQUES
Most would assume that Rosemary’s Remembrances could
win this category hands down. After all, it has every year since they’ve
been open. But that’s where this year’s poll is different
because it was the Kaweah Country residents who ruled, and it shows once
again in this category.
Tying for first place with Rosemary Anderson’s shop
is Barby’s, a local hangout where longtime owner Wayne Van Dellen
serves up antiques, curiosities, and oddities along with coffee, fresh-squeezed
orange juice, and even a Bible verse or two.
Other places to shop for what’s old and cool are the
Lemon Cove Antique Shop, Tule River Trading Company (Porterville), My
Sister’s Closet, and the town of Exeter.
PLACE TO BUY T-SHIRTS
So far, no one has been able to beat Steve Bennett’s
Three Rivers Drug in this category. Whether locals or visitors are voting,
everybody knows this is the place to buy your walking billboard of Kaweah
Votes were also received for Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs,
Lodgepole Market and Gift Shop, Totem, Kaweah General Store, and Three
Rivers Market. And to further prove this is a poll persuaded by locals,
longtime Three Rivers resident Maile Peck received a couple of votes for
her wardrobe that consists of T-shirts and sweatshirts advertising places
both here and far.
PLACE TO BUY BOOKS
The Cabin takes this category once again this year for their
cooperative selection of used books. But, in another tribute to the local
contribution to the poll, some interesting places came in a close second.
Residents suggest also stocking up on reading material at
The Thingerie, St. Anthony Retreat’s gift shop, and Sequoia-Kings
Canyon National Parks visitor centers.
PLACE TO RENT MOVIES
This is one of those no-brainer categories. In fact, many
voters must just roll their eyes when they come across this listing.
After all, who else is there to vote for besides Chump’s
Videos and DVDs? Let’s see— Large selection, ease of shopping,
customized service, knowledgeable staff, and community support all packaged
in an attractive building, inside and out. Heck, these guys would beat
out Blockbuster if they had to.
But this and certain other “duh” categories are
in the poll for a reason. To give certain businesses at least one pat-on-the-back/kudos/atta-boy/thumbs-up/bravo/tip-of-the-hat
each year for their dedication to doing business in Three Rivers.
PLACE TO BUY
Anne Lang’s Emporium won this category by a mere blossom.
Putting down roots in Three Rivers and coming in barely a leaf behind
is Sierra Garden Center under the new ownership of David and Seger Ramirez.
Everybody has their favorite trail and they all seem to be
a different one. This year, Mineral King’s Nature Trail came out
ahead by one vote, followed by the South Fork’s Ladybug Trail.
These two trails can keep hikers busy in all four seasons.
The Nature Trail is best experienced in the summer and fall; head to Ladybug
during winter and spring.
Other votes were received for (get out your topo) Middle
Fork Trail, Crescent Meadow, Salt Creek, Eagle Lake, Kern Canyon and the
High Sierra Trail, Tokopah Falls, Congress Trail, Hart Tree Trail, and
Lots of local insight in this category. In fact, this category
received the most listings ever.
Salt Creek, the Bureau of Land Management’s mountain-biking
trail is the favorite of locals. Then there’s the Mineral King Road,
Dinely Drive, Kaweah River Drive, South Fork Drive (last year’s
winner), North Fork Drive, Colony Mill Road (it’s not legal, folks…
in a national park and all that), and Bravo Lake (Woodlake).
Not a lot of votes in this category. Read what you will into
that, but Three Rivers Golf Course came out ahead.
In second place was Woodlake’s golf course. Third place
Once again, “The River” won out in this category.
Vacation Bible School and the Woodlake Skate Park also received votes.
A three-way tie was received in this category — Sequoia
National Park, Kaweah Post Office, and Mineral King. Votes were also received
for Kaweah Park Resort, Holiday Falls, Crescent Meadow, and the Pinewood
Picnic Area (Sequoia).
This year, Three Rivers Hideaway, a privately-owned Kaweah
Country campground was voted the BEST place to pitch a tent.
The only other private facility to receive votes was Kaweah Park Resort
(last year’s winner). Being surrounded by federal lands, it’s
easy to guess the places that received the rest of the votes: Potwisha,
Lodgepole, Buckeye Flat, Cold Springs, and Hume Lake.
Slicky won again this year, but not by much. Three Rivers
Hideaway (see “Campground”) came in a close second.
Again, being a locals-controlled poll this year, there were
more swimming holes listed than in previous years: Edison, Airport, Lodgepole,
Slick Rock, Indian Head, Ash Mountain, North Fork Bridge, Cobbleknoll,
and upper North Fork.
PLACE TO TAKE THE KIDS
Sequoia National Park, in general, wins this category year
after year. It would actually be disappointing if it didn’t.
Here are some other suggestions: Lake Kaweah, Wood ‘N’
Horse Stables, Moro Rock, Reimer’s, Three Rivers School playground,
Three Rivers Library, and Pizza Factory.
HOTEL / MOTEL
Under new ownership this year, the Buckeye Tree Lodge won
this BEST category for the first time ever, stealing the top spot away
from last year’s winner, Holiday Inn Express.
And, this has never happened before, but every hotel/motel
in Three Rivers received votes. Here they are in the order they were tallied:
Lazy J Ranch Motel, Holiday Inn Express, Sequoia Motel, Best Western Holiday
Lodge, Sierra Lodge, Gateway Lodge, Sequoia Village Inn, River Inn, and
BED AND BREAKFAST
Every year since the poll’s beginning, the Mungers
at Plantation Bed & Breakfast in Lemon Cove have submitted a stack
of polls that their guests have completed, which ensures them a top spot
in this category. But this year they didn’t do that.
And they won anyway.
Coming in second place was Bearpaw High Sierra Camp.
The Holiday Inn Express was voted the BEST place to stay
when traveling with a couple generations. Voters suggest also taking the
gang to Lazy J, Wuksachi, and Sequoia Village Inn.
Holiday Inn Express won this category, too. Other votes were
received for Silver City chalets, Wuksachi, and Plantation B&B.
Silver City Mountain Resort, in the Mineral King area of
Sequoia National Park, is where to head for rustic comfort. Also try Bearpaw,
the River Inn’s cabins, Lake Elowin, Hill Haven, Grant Grove, and
the cottages at Sequoia Village Inn.
It’s a dead heat between Buckeye Tree Lodge, Plantation
B&B, Lazy J, and Holiday Inn Express. Also receiving votes are River
Inn & Cabins and Sequoia Village Inn.
SWIMMING POOL/HOT TUB
The Holiday Inn Express is the BEST place to immerse yourself.
Folks also like taking a dip at the Buckeye Tree Lodge, Lazy J, Holiday
Lodge, Three Rivers Bed & Breakfast, and Plantation B&B.
Again this year, there are friends to be found at River View
Restaurant and Lounge.
Also try “church,” 3 Rivers Cyber Café,
hiking trails, The Cabin coffeehouse, and the Friday Night Scramble (“and
barbecue”). Oh, and “the Internet” got a vote.
They are the ambassadors of Three Rivers — High Sierra
Jazz Band. And they have once again been voted the BEST local band without
even a close second place.
Local folks like being entertained BEST at the River View
Restaurant and Lounge.
Other places to enjoy a show are at the Lions Arena, Three
Rivers Memorial Building, Three Rivers Arts Center, and McDowall Auditorium.
The three-day jazz festival known as Jazzaffair is the BEST
Around these parts, we also look forward to the Redbud Festival,
the Three Rivers Lions Team Roping, and the Three Rivers School Carnival.
PLACE TO DANCE
The BEST place to shake a leg is at Rex and Dorletta Hildebrand’s
River View Restaurant and Lounge, where there are plenty of opportunities
to hit the dance floor with live music on Friday and Saturday nights and
at riverside on Sunday afternoons.
Jazzaffair came in second.
The happiest hours are spend at the River View.
Other jovial places to spend 60 minutes or so are the Gateway
BEER ON TAP
Get your suds at River View because they took this category,
too. Also raise your mug at Brewbakers (Visalia) and Wuksachi.
Gateway wins this category. Wuksachi received the only other
Since the closure of Three Rivers’s first and only
winery, the stemware is half empty around here.
This is a new category that left some befuddled, but others
with the answers we were looking for because, yes, we country folks have
Jazzaffair won as the BEST, but votes were also received
for the Kaweah River Drum Circle, Redbud Festival, Concert on the Grass,
and the Artists’ Studio Tour.
PLACE TO LOG ON
This is another new category, developed mainly to give the
3 Rivers Cyber Café the credit they deserve for adventuring into
cyberspace to bring this business to Three Rivers. Other votes were received
for the Three Rivers Library and the Holiday Inn Express.
This year, Frank Root of Kaweah White Water Adventures is
the guy to trust for guidance outside. In second place is Paul Bischoff
of Sequoia Sightseeing Tours.
The twists and curves of the Mineral King Road are what readers
voted as BEST in scenic driving this year. But there were plenty of other
suggestions as well: North Fork, South Fork, Kings Canyon Highway, Dry
Creek, Highway 198 around Lake Kaweah “when it’s full,”
Generals Highway, and Kaweah River Drive.
In other words, all of Kaweah Country is worthy of a windshield
It’s interesting that Mineral King has taken first
in this category for two consecutive years. And here are the other selections:
South Fork, Kaweah River Drive, Lake Kaweah, Big Meadows Road, Cherokee
Oaks, and North Fork.
The Three Rivers Historical Museum won this category. Giant
Forest Museum, the winner last year, came in second.
PLACE TO TAKE AN
Once again, Sequoia National Park in general won as the BEST
place to take the houseguests. Also, take ‘em to Kings Canyon, a
Sierra Traditional Jazz Club concert, Reimer’s Candies and Gifts,
Moro Rock, the river, Giant Forest, The Cabin, Montecito-Sequoia Lodge
(Giant Sequoia National Monument), Mineral King, and Lake Kaweah.
You shouldn’t leave Kaweah Country without a visit
to the world’s largest living tree — General Sherman. Other
favorites in Sequoia-Kings Canyon are Tunnel Log, Crystal Cave, Crescent
Meadow, Giant Forest and the Big Trees, Moro Rock, Mineral King cabins,
and Kings Canyon itself.
It’s a legacy to the early settlement of Three Rivers
— Kaweah Post Office. There’s more history at Tharp’s
Log, the Paul Bunyan sculpture and Three Rivers Historical Museum, and
the Mineral King cabins.
PLACE TO BE AT
SUNSET / MOONRISE
Again this year, as the sun sets on another BEST of Kaweah
Country readers’ poll, Moro Rock is the place to be when day turns
to night. Here are some other suggestions: Lake Kaweah or, more specifically,
“a half-mile east of the Horse Creek Bridge,” St. Anthony
Retreat, Slick Rock, Sunset Rock, at the river, and Mineral King.